The Abandonment Rate, Or: Date More, God, Date More

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

“I’m no good at dating,” a friend told me. “I talked to some people, and they seemed interested, and then they disappeared for no reason. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
I stared at her.
“You realize that’s what dating pretty much is, right?”
Look, I date fairly successfully. And I’d estimate my conversion rate from “good conversation” to “actually meeting up” is somewhere in the high teens, if that. I spend a lot of time chatting with people who seem interested in me, then we talk, and they wander away for some reason I never quite find out.
It’s not always personal, of course. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes they meet someone more suited to them. And, yeah, sometimes I guess they find me uninteresting on some level – but that’s part of the deal.
And that’s just counting the people who emailed me! If we count the number of people who I’ve tried to start conversations with and gotten nowhere, then we’re down to maybe 5% success.
5% success, and I do it well.
And I think a lot of people who date get depressed because they’ve dated like seven people, and they’re getting no response, and this means they suck. No. Dating is like baseball: a .300 batting average, which includes a generous three tries for each attempt to get a hit, is *quite* excellent.
It sucks. But there’s a metric in web sites called “shopping cart abandonment,” which is when someone puts an item in their cart and then never check out. The average abandonment percentage is 63% – six out of ten times when someone clicks on the “I want to buy that” button, they decide not to get it, and nobody’s quite sure why.
Fact is, pretty much any activity worth doing involves a lot of whiffs. Job hunting. Making friends. Submitting writing for publication. Writing jokes. Life is full of null responses, and dating is just another facet of that.
Yet if you start taking that abandonment rate personally, then you’re poisoning your own well. Rather than having four people wander away and going, “God, I must be terrible,” instead think, “The worthwhile things in life involve more misses than hits. I’ve got to get used to the idea that even the best players have low batting averages, and part of the reason they wind up being good is that they keep stepping up.”
Because the sad thing is, a lot of the folks who thrive in these cultures are the genuinely wretched ones who overestimate themselves in all the wrong ways – the moral equivalent of spammers, with a 0.03% response rate, but they’ll cheerfully try a thousand people with their terrible approach and it’ll never occur to them that maybe it’s time to change up their technique.
Meanwhile, genuinely nice people throw up their hands in despair because they’re not achieving a 10% success rate. And again, if you look at the number of swings-per-hit for the best baseball players in the world, it’s still frighteningly low. 10% may be too optimistic an estimate, particularly if you’ve got standards. It took me fifteen years of constant dating before I found the love of my life, and I consider that to be a pretty lucky catch.
You? You’re trying for life-changing things. That’s good. Life-changing things involve a lot of perseverance. So keep at it.
And know that yeah, it sucks. But it’s the only way to get to the good stuff.


  1. flask
    Nov 1, 2015

    oh, ferret. you are awesome.
    for the last week or so i have been cripplingly depressed. like, can’t get out of bed or bath depressed. can’t manage to organize enough to eat food.
    i know you know what it’s like.
    and i’ve been feeling some insecurities about a relationship i care about.
    i know you know what that’s like.
    but you keep writing, and i keep reading. and i feel a little better for a time.

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